Renfield: In the Shadow of the Vampire

A deeply disturbed, spider-eating nutjob. These are my thoughts on the character of Renfield from Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897). Throughout the book, we are only really ever told about Renfield through the other characters. This all changed on March 5 at Bakehouse Theatre’s Studio, when Grist to the Mill Productions debuted Renfield’s perspective on life in Renfield: In the Shadow of the Vampire. This one-man show adds depth to this character and tells the story of Dracula through Renfield’s eyes.

Renfield’s terrors are brought to life in incredible realism throughout the show. The actor does a fantastic job in capturing the sense of insanity in a late 19th century mental asylum. The costume design too, reflected well on that time period together with the battered mattress on the floor and wooden chair. Although minimal, this was effective in turning the stage into a cell. I really did feel transported to this time period throughout the show, this was enhanced by both special effects and lighting.

As engaging as the ramblings of Renfield were, it did almost become an insanity trip myself watching this show. The ramblings were presented in long intervals and are difficult to digest at times. They progress slowly and it may appear that the story is going nowhere. In many ways, this captures the essence of the novel really well. They do well to emphasise the craziest and disturbing parts of Renfield, including his catching of flies and hearing the voices of Dracula. Having read the novel, this is both effective and almost difficult to understand.

Renfield: In the Shadow of the Vampire captures the character of Renfield effectively with high accuracy. It feels like an official extension of Dracula and offers a different perspective into the story, one which would’ve been great to have. If you enjoy the book and the film adaptations then you will really enjoy this show. It’s a faithful retelling of a classic horror novel and a disturbing character.

3.5 / 5 stars


Words by Cameron Lowe

Renfield: In the Shadow of the Vampire will be playing at the Bakehouse Theatre on March 10 and 14 at 6pm

For more information and to purchase tickets click here

Boys Taste Better with Nutella

I can’t recall laughing at having cold Macca’s fries thrown at me, and then instantly being floored by a stark, brutal admission, so a tip of the propeller beanie to you, Caitlin Hill and Peter Wood. I mean, I’ve definitely had fries chucked at me a few times after I’ve said something inappropriate, and on one particular occasion someone lobbed a half-eaten kebab at me, but the 1-2 combination of an amusing dance routine and a rather blunt statement? That’s definitely new.

Boys Taste Better with Nutella is a brief, and at times sharp, examination of Aggy’s (Hill) love life and Frederick’s (Wood) sexuality. For Aggy it’s a revolving door of manipulative scumbags that inevitably break her heart, whilst for Frederick it’s coming to terms with who he actually might be, and what he’s allergic to. Punctuated by silly dance numbers and throwaway pop-culture referencing one-liners, both characters find replacements for their respective struggles: Aggy’s best friend Nutella masks the latest bloke that she’s changed herself completely for, and Frederick takes solace in producing Mukbang videos and McDonald’s fries.

Both are addicted to the instant gratification that they find in each of their vices; Aggy either falls for a guy she believes will love and adore her unconditionally, or she gets to inhale Nutella, and Frederick gets immediate acceptance, likes, and comments on his videos, or he gets to mainline fries like a junkie. Of course, both characters have a genesis for their coping mechanisms, which gets explored through absurd and exaggerated situations, with Wood often playing a range of supporting characters to Hill’s leading role.

Whilst it’s pretty low-hanging fruit – millennials learning to accept and better themselves without having to rely on motivational Instagram posts of profoundly banal quotes over idyllic mountains – Boys Taste Better With Nutella doesn’t pull any punches, and gets pretty confrontational with the topics it brings up. Yeah, it’s ludicrous and stupid but it’s clever and quite poignant at the same time. Wood and Hill ham it up whilst giving serious commentary on the increasing isolation and lack of identity that’s come about with modern hyper-connectivity. Their slick comedic timing means both bounce effectively off each other, and their evident talents create a rather enjoyable show.

3.5 / 5 stars


Words by Mikey Della Porta

Boys Taste Better with Nutella is showing until February 23

For more information and to purchase tickets, click here

The Devil Made Me Do It

An independent production by Write Me Originals, The Devil Made Me Do It is a theatre piece interrogating the pressures of being an actor/dancer in Hollywood or even just a woman in the 1950s.

Beginning as an intermission dancer, Nancy was offered the chance of a lifetime making films with director Robert Melva. Without much thought for the consequences, she signed on sacrificing not only her name but her independence, her body, and her life to the showbiz industry. Renamed as Nora Hudson, she’s cultivated into a glamorous starlet by the production company and encouraged to take a number of pills to enhance her suitability as at actor (eg pills for weight loss and energy). Eventually she loses herself along the way, realising that nobody in the industry valued her for herself, instead they valued her for being a sex symbol.

Nancy needs to break her contract with the devil – despite the fact he laughed in her face when she suggested it, she is determined to regain her soul. Given a challenge and a countdown, Nancy must revisit memories of her past and uncover what kind of person she truly is. It might be painful, but it’s necessary if she’s ever going to have a shot at regaining her soul.

While the story appears to be Nancy’s, it is more so about the haunting figure in the background. Both Nancy’s past and present selves are overshadowed by the devil. Nancy’s devil is the devil while Nora’s is her infamous manager, Melva, who is not only controlling and demanding, he is the person Nora must please daily to maintain her path to stardom.

With some dark turns this production explores a number of issues including drug-dependence, body-image issues, and gas-lighting. The Devil Made Me Do It is an engrossing piece of performance theatre with several quite talented young actors. The piece is a warning to performers, and people in general, to be wary of what you’re signing up for and the consequences of signing a contract that might exploit you later on/ bite you on the ass.

With costuming a throw-back to the 50s and the iconic blonde-bombshell archetype, the show is a delight to watch.

 

3.5 / 5 stars


Words by Kayla Gaskell

The Devil Made Me Do It is playing at the Bakehouse Theatre until February 22

For more information and to book tickets, click here

Greg Byron in Poetic Licence

Poetic Licence starts suddenly, with Greg Byron getting into the show immediately. He greets the audience and interacts with them throughout, aided by the Treasury 1860 front bar’s cosy setting.
The show covers topics as varied as Donald Trump, Margaret Thatcher, gun control, and Brexit – while still finding room to take a brief poetic detour to encompass Doctor Who. Byron tests spoken word limits in a variety of direction as he shows humour and seriousness as needed to discuss important current affairs.
It’s a treat for the audience to be directed through so many topics and engaged so fully. Byron effortlessly communicates with the audience and though audience involvement may be a thing of terror for a great many, here you are in the hands of someone who knows exactly how far to take it and exactly how best to elicit the desired responses.
The performance was fast-paced, kept the audience’s interest, and when it was over left everyone wanting more. With a great variety of subjects and an interesting take on them all, this performance feels too quickly finished, and when that is the only criticism, you know the show is a good one.
Byron shows his talent in wordplay and pushing language to achieve things both insightful and impressive, often at once. He eschews expectation and can take the audience down an unexpected pathway to the delight of all in the audience. He seems to go well beyond simple wordplay and achieve some sort of word experiment that never fails to yield something worthwhile.
If you are interested in trying a spoken word performance and not yet done so, Greg Byron’s Poetic Licence is an excellent place to start.

 


Words by Liam McNally

5 stars

Greg Byron in Poetic Licence is playing at Treasury 1860 until March 17, except Fridays. Tickets available here.

Peter Goers in Look Ma, No Hans!

On an impressively hot day in the middle of Adelaide’s latest heat wave, Peter Goers took to the stage to tell the audience a series of inter-linking stories that prove amusing, moving, and always engaging.
Goers is a master storyteller with an almost unrivalled ability when it comes to stories that feel intrinsically Adelaide-focused. There’s no show at the Adelaide Fringe this year that is more fulfilling of the ‘Adelaide’ part of the name.
The show feels fundamentally like sitting down to hear the yarns of a friend over a coffee or a beer. There’s something very engaging, and very personal about the way Goers goes about his show that feels essentially inviting. It feels more like an hour of sharing than a performance as Goers tells stories of first- and second-hand experiences.
It’s a simple format, built of a number of stories Goers moves effortlessly between and it benefits from that. It doesn’t need anything additional. This is an audience with Peter Goers and if you know anything about Goers’s radio show and other appearances, an additions would an unwelcome distraction.
Anyone who can hold an audience’s interest across one hour in the punishing Adelaide heat is clearly a master of their craft. We’re treated to stories about books, about a swimming pool in Turkey, and he takes time to add a discussion of war and those who have to endure it.
The show skews towards the older generations, as Goers makes mention of, but it never does so in a way that would alienate younger audiences. People of all ages should appreciate this.
At the performance’s conclusion, Goers greeted everyone as they left. It goes further to make clear how much a consummate professional he is. It also reinforces the feeling that we have been treated to an intimate hour of story-telling by a welcome friend. Look Ma, No Hans is a rewarding, generous offering from a very Adelaidean performer.

 


Words by Liam McNally

4.5 stars.

Peter Goers in ‘Look Ma, No Hans’ is playing at the Holden Street Theatres every Saturday and Sunday until the end of the Adelaide Fringe. Tickets available here.

Eurydice

Set in ‘The Sunken Garden’ at Holden Street Theatres, Eurydice is an intimate performance that feels like a story being read only for you. Written by Alexander Wright with music by Phil Grainger, Eurydice shows a modernisation of the Greek mythological tale of Orpheus and Eurydice. The performance is a prequel to their sister-show Orpheus, focusing instead on Eurydice’s side of the story as it intertwines the lives of goddesses, superheroes and everyday people.

Serena Manteghi plays Leni/Eurydice and Casey Jay Andrews rises to the task of playing the remaining ensemble of characters: mother, lovers, old man, goddess. Manteghi and Andrews switch between dialogue and narrative storytelling and become their characters effortlessly. These women deliver a beautiful spoken word performance and act with deep emotion, accompanied by music that perfectly sets the tone and songs that amusingly complement the modern setting of this tale.

Perhaps the most touching part of what is in every aspect a beautiful play, Manteghi and Andrews shared the stage harmoniously and were genuinely thrilled to be performing together. While courtyard is small, the energy is high.

The stripped-down nature of the set allows focus to be placed on the dialogue, which is necessary, as the play reads in a poetic and almost a stream of consciousness manner; in rising and falling waves of emotion – and you wouldn’t want to miss a word.

Eurydice is a wonderfully written story about forging your own path and becoming your own hero. It is a unique and uplifting performance that takes an ancient tale and makes it its own.


Four stars

Eurydice is showing at Holden Street Theatres until March 3, and again from March 12-16, for more information and to purchase tickets follow the link.

Words by Kirsty van de Veer

 

Honest

‘I think I may be a bit of a cunt.’

That’s the line the play begins with, punctuated (as if that were necessary) by performer Matt Hyde downing a shot and slamming it on the bar. From that moment, you know this will be an immersive and challenging experience.

In the hands of a less able actor, the play’s sole character, Dave, would be a simply unpleasant character. Hyde manages to ensure that as angry and bitter Dave may become, he is always a character with a moral compass. Whether that be his assiduous maintenance of the truth to an individual feeling remorse for his actions, Dave is too prickly to be deeply liked and too real to be disliked.

When the play opened, I caught sight of Hyde at the bar, slightly dishevelled, nursing a beer, and checking his phone. I didn’t know when he’d arrived. He was just there. This blurring of lines is fundamental to the play as Hyde has Dave do a shot with an audience member and lock eyes with other members of the audience as he delivers diatribes against dishonesty and ignorance. The front bar of Treasury 1860 proves a perfect venue as Dave could easily be a tired, unhappy government worker winding down after work – however no such person would likely be able to hold the audience in rapture like Matt Hyde does.

Across an hour, we witness the breaking down of one man in such a way as to offer insight on the nature of masculinity, alcoholism, mental health, and a host of other crucial subjects. There’s still humour to be had in the play but it feels utterly organic and never just an attempt to lighten the mood. It is just the fact that humour can be found in almost any place and the writing by DC Moore and the acting by Matt Hyde ensure that the play never reaches too far for humour, it is just balanced to perfection.

It may hit a little too close to home for those who have witnessed the terrible toll alcoholism and mental illness can take on a person but even to such people, this play will likely offer some additional insight.

It’s not an easy play but it’s not trying to be – and nor should it. Hyde’s absolute commitment to the role keeps the whole room on edge and hanging on his every word as he sells the experience to perfection. Audience members will almost certainly feel that uncertainty and concern that comes from meeting someone like his character Dave. As Dave orders another shot to hammer home a point or just as he moves from one topic to another, the actor seems gone, replaced by the character.

Uncomfortable in all the right ways, funny in unexpected ways, and fundamentally honest, this play does exactly what it sets out to do.

 


Words by Liam McNally

4.5 stars

Honest is playing at Treasury 1860 February 26-28, and March 2-3. Tickets available here.

Djuki Mala

On a bustling Friday night, I had the pleasure of witnessing the legendary Australian Djuki Mala, or Chooky Dancers. The seats were all filled to the brim, and although we were squished in like sardines, the audience soon forgot as they were transported only by a stage, music, and four energetic men. From the moment the show began, I was absolutely spellbound by their grace and rhythm.

Trying to think of phrases or words throughout the performance was completely hopeless because I was so ensorcelled by these four men. The team pays a beautiful homage to past and present Aboriginal tradition. Right from the start, they educate the audience with a multitude of reasons as to why bringing their culture around the world is so important to them. I witnessed expressive dances interspersed with short clips of video explaining the history of the Djuki Mala group and their roots.

The show was vivaciously cheeky and spiritually moving all at the same time. Blending traditional Aboriginal culture with modern dance, the energetic performance left me with a full heart and a greater knowledge of Aboriginal culture. The elation that I experienced was akin to no other, and a smile was permanently glued to my face throughout the entire performance. The absolute openness and effervescent attitude of the dancers was reflected in the audience’s joyful atmosphere.

Going 12 years strong and travelling all over the world, Djuki Mala are obviously doing something right. The independent company thrives on locals and tourists alike taking time out of their day, so why not come and see for yourself this Fringe season and help them make a big difference in their community. Take everyone you know; you won’t be disappointed.

Go and see this heart-warming show and remember your own roots. Anyone can enjoy this masterpiece of movement, no matter what their age. Come down and embrace the story of the Djuki Mala, and they’ll embrace you back.

 


Words by Sarah Ingham

4.5 stars.

Djuki Mala is playing Umbrella Revolution at the Garden of Unearthly Delights nightly (except Mondays) until March 17. Tickets available here.

Alison Paradoxx presents Floral Peroxide

I’m frozen in my seat as I watch Alison Paradoxx presents Floral Peroxide unfold. Tears swell in my eyes as I listen to the poetry and my heart thumps at the pace of the ECG sound effects. There is no word I can speak and I struggle to take my eyes off the performance to write notes for my review. What I have just witnessed is by far the best show I have seen at the 2019 Fringe yet.
Held at the Libertine by Louis, Alison Paradoxx presents Floral Peroxide is a show that is about the life of 2016 Poetry Slam Champion Alison Bennett. Floral Peroxide speaks of her health and disabilities over her life and the pain of silence over the years. It is a poetry performance which incorporated technology and interpretative dance to create a multimedia experience which is accessible to everyone.
I found myself completely consumed right from the moment Alison sat in the wheelchair. This experience only continued as her story appeared in writing on screen. As the words appear, she slowly raises her head from the wheelchair and starts to dance as dramatic music and sounds played. Then when she stood up to read out her poetry, my eyes were fixed on her, listening to her every word.
The poetry Alison spoke to me unlike any other poetry before. Her poetry speaks of identity loss, incredible pain, depersonalisation, discovery, and acceptance. Having a disability myself, her poetry to me was both confronting and empowering, especially the themes of the pain of silence and society’s views on disability. It has empowered me to want to no longer be silent too.
The show structure is nothing short of phenomenal. Alison’s costume design was both stunningly freaky and beautiful. It complements the performance and really brings out the intensity of her disabilities. The sound by 5000AD too was captivating, capturing the emotion of the poems effectively. The lighting and use of screen to tell some of the intense themes of the story were gorgeous. I could feel the pain and the suffering she had gone through as they rolled, taking it all in.
Alison Paradoxx presents Floral Peroxide is the must see show of Fringe 2019. It is captivating from start to finish and is one of the most confronting and beautiful performances I have ever seen. If you still can, stop reading this review and go buy a ticket for this show. It is a show unlike any other at this year’s Fringe.
For more information be sure to check out our In Conversation with: Alison Paradoxx article here. For those attending, you can also buy her chapbook, Subtitled Radiology, for $20 after the show.

 


Words by Cameron Lowe

Five stars.

Alison Paradoxx presents Floral Peroxide is playing at the Libertine by Louis tonight. Tickets available here.

 

Life on the Line

Situated in a lush green glade of the Botanic Gardens, Life on the Line is a good example of a show that compliments and is complemented by its setting. With a positive message promoting outdoor play and kindness in its young audience, this is plainly wholesome fun that knows its audience and works to engage them. This show exemplifies many of the most admirable qualities of what the Fringe can offer. Tucked away in a grassy area of the Botanic Gardens, it truly feels like the sort of hidden gem one happens upon one sunny afternoon.
The fundamental, unpretentious good-naturedness of this show means that even the most cynical people will likely be forced to embrace its good-natured message.
Hilda the Hills Hoist takes centre stage throughout and lends her frame to a host imaginative scenarios. The performance is by turns acrobatic, comic, and musical, but always silly. Having brought Hilda all the way from Australia’s east coast, the pair’s passion is hardly up for debate. They then proceed to go about the show with all the joy and excitement one could hope of two people willing to undertake such an endeavour.
In the performance I attended, there was a slight technical difficulty which I note only for their ability to work through it and improvise. Their rawness and openness in performance means that a technical issue poses far less of an issue for them than it would others.
The winning performance delights in the silly and is sure to win the hearts of all children (and children-at-heart). It’s a good show for people of all ages and while it features audience participation – a terrifying prospect to many – it does so in an excellent style that should remain a fond memory after the performance’s conclusion. A goodness of spirit and honest glee in the chaotic permeates this show and ensures that it should be one of the staples of a family’s Fringe outing.
The show’s rougher edges are never an issue as they only go further toward what the show is at its core – a thing of child-like imagination and enjoyment. At its heart, this show is just about children playing outside and turning the mundane into the fantastic.

 


Words by Liam McNally

Four stars.

Life on the Line is playing February 24, March 2-3, and March 16-17, three time a day, at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens’ Plane Tree Lawns (access via the Friends’ Gate). Tickets are available here.